The goal for most of us writers is to get our work published. We dream of the day we walk through our local bookstore and see our name on the cover of a book. While getting published isn’t the only way to validate oneself as a writer, it certainly is one of the most gratifying. It’s also one of the most challenging.
Getting published requires the right mix of these essentials elements: A great idea, hard work, ambition, determination and a spot of good luck. It often requires you being at the right place at the right time (or having your manuscript be at the right place at the right time). It also demands that you make a decision about which path you want to take on your road to publication.
You have three main options to get your work published. Here they are and here’s what you should consider before moving forward with each.
1. Land a Literary Agent
A literary agent is someone who becomes an advocate for your work and uses his or her connections throughout the publishing industry (something most writers don’t have) to sell your book to a publisher. You query them much like you’d query a publisher—you follow their submission guidelines, which you can often find on their websites or in agent directories, such as the Guide to Literary Agents. They typically charge 15% of your book’s earnings for their services, but if you land a good agent he or she is worth more than that.
2. Find a Publisher on Your Own
Many writers skip the agent route and go directly to publishers and try to sell their books on their own. This path can work out well if you have a connection with a publisher or have a book that’s targeted to a smaller publisher for a smaller (regional) market or just want to have more control. It’s also an option if you aren’t having much luck landing an agent. But remember, you’ll be in charge of everything on your behalf, including fighting for things that you want and understanding and negotiating your publishing contract (here are a few tips on book contract negotiations). You can find thousands of listings for publishers (and what they are looking for) in Writer’s Market or on WritersMarket.com, as well as many other online resources.
3. Self Publish Your Book
Some folks don’t like the idea of self-publishing. Others believe it’s definitely the way to go in this 21st Century age of Internet access, platforms and social media. The truth is, it all depends on what your goals are and how savvy you are at marketing your work. If you self-publish your book, you don’t have to share profits from your book with an agent or publisher and all decisions about it run through you. The downsides are that there’s usually an upfront cost (remember, you’re the publisher) and it’s hard to get your book into bookstores (for many reasons). If you just want to see your work in print or give it to a small group, like your family, self-publishing may be the route for you. Or if you’re an excellent self-marketer and have a blog or Twitter account with a built-in audience, whom you can sell to directly, self-publishing may be worth considering. But before making any decisions, be sure to check out your options. Writer’s Digest has its own self-publishing arm, Abbott Press, which is worth a look. We also offer a list of other self-publishing companies so you can compare and contrast and pick what’s right for you. Just remember: Self-publishing isn’t for everyone, so be sure to level your expectations and know what you’re getting if you decide to make the leap.
Want to learn more? Expand your publishing knowledge with these great writing books and online resources: